6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 15 October 2011
When Harold Bender presented his `Anabaptist Vision' it was in addition to being a piece of historical comment a theological vision of Anabaptism. That this was a theological vision of Anabaptism is more or less accepted; for example by depicting normative Anabaptism as being non-violent and hence (legitimately) as being very different in character to that witnessed in Munster. But what is less well acknowledged is that there is also a sociological and denominational vision at play as well.
Writing as a Mennonite Bender was also writing as a member of only a handful of broad Anabaptist movements (although many smaller groups therein) - Mennonite, Amish, Hutterite, and Brethren - that together represented the whole of contemporary Anabaptism. The result is that in Bender's case specifically Anabaptist history is viewed through a Mennonite lens.
Bender's emphasis is certainly not unique, even after the rise of polygenetic Anabaptist histories it remains the case that ask anyone to point to a contemporary Anabaptist they will either look at you blankly or, in the event that they have heard the term will point to the Amish or Mennonites or other associated groups.
Which brings us to Stuart Murray's The Naked Anabaptist. Writing from an English perspective - which, depending on definitions, has never had much of an Anabaptist presence - Murray suggests that we should not consider Anabaptists to be synonymous with Mennonites and the other groups. In other words, one does not need to be Mennonite, Amish etc., in order to be an Anabaptist. In England this argument is especially pronounced given the small number of such `established' Anabaptists (I am aware of 2-3 Mennonite congregations and a few Bruderhofs and, if Murray is correct, then the Amish have flirted with the English a couple of times in the last few decades). In what is perhaps the most important aspect of Murray's argument this lack of commonly accepted denominational entities is not evidence of a lack of an indigenous Anabaptism. Anabaptism, while still very much an minority movement, is in fact a viewpoint gaining increasing prominence in English Christianity. These Anabaptists, who may not be clothed with the expected garments of Mennonite or Amish identity are nonetheless as Anabaptist as any others; they are however, to use Murray's term Naked Anabaptists.
Murray focuses his book on six core convictions of the Anabaptist Network. These core convictions form the core of this book and chapter by chapter Murray explores these convictions with reference to wider Anabaptist tradition and history, the experiences of UK Christians and theological reflection. In doing this Murray does an excellent job of of setting out some key facets of Anabaptist thought in contradistinction to perceived views of Anabaptists and will, I think, introduce Anabaptist theology and life to new readers without some more modern accretions. Recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A fresh discovery concerning Anabaptism has grown apace and this new title will emerge as a manifesto vital to it's core. Stuart Murray writes compellingly about the vision of this five-hundred year movement with a clarity, lightness, depth and curiousity. This reflects a British context of changing church and post-modern culture.
There is a thorough research, assured steer and much wise signage throughout this insightful new publication. I particularly enjoyed the community and discipleship chapter, in addition to the convictions that are defined and incarnated by stories and ministry situations warmly and well defined by Murray. Greater styling and design creativity would have further enhanced the quality of this helpful title.
on 19 April 2015
Clearly written by an advocate rather than an acolyte, this is a relevant volume for anyone interested in Christianity from a personal or academic perspective. The historical references are probably subtle enough to engage the more informed reader. It also neatly fills in the gaps for the interested browser. For me, its selling point is how it references a radical, historical tradition which has had significant cultural impact beyond the UK but which has had hitherto little influence directly on the British religious tradition. Stuart's greatest emphasis is on how religion, specifically Christianity and its post-Christian manifestations, can be understood in terms of the lived experience of the everyday through an Anabaptist lens. This tends to be where the book falls short and conversely where it excels. Stuart does not reference Anabaptism in post-modern, marketised terms which present religion as a series of choices, ultimately benign and practically meaningless. This is not a manual for the religiously dispossessed, disenfranchised or contingent Christians. Definitive answers, if there are any, lie outside this book. Stuart alludes to the idea that the more squeamish seekers might be better looking down a different path. Whilst Anabaptism is painted as potentially appealing to many, the author leaves the impression that it has sharp edges: it is 'flawed and imperfect'. It is also a tradition that has evolved through internal as well as external conflicts. It does not augur an easy life and advocates a discipleship that finds its echoes in Jesus's example. Stuart thus leaves the book rather uncomfortably, asking questions and casting doubt; a rather apt way, ultimately, to frame this very beguiling Christian tradition.
on 7 April 2013
Initially I was somewhat critical of the text but as I moved through the latter sections, it became clear that Murray was interested in providing a very fair and balanced treatment of the subject. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone wanting to look into the essentials of the Anabaptist tradition, faith and contemporary status, especially as it pertains to the UK. Great Read!!!!